Climate & Energy

U.S. Mayors Climate Conference: Clinton II

Working with cities to create markets for green products

My first impression of Clinton was that he’d just woken up, or that he was under the weather. He had a little bedhead, his voice was a bit croaky, and he was speaking slowly. This definitely wasn’t the virtuoso Clinton of the 1998 SOTU. The fireworks were mostly muted, though there were a few flashes here and there. Still, on his worst day Clinton is never less than engrossing. (photo: U.S. Mayors Conference) He began by laying out the main three challenges of the 21st century: persistent inequality, abroad and at home; identity conflict, between peoples who think their differences …

'Mideast Oil Forever?': Part V

Pollution prevention and preparing for the future

The final part of "MidEast Oil Forever?" (subs. req'd) discusses pollution prevention. I think the discussion still holds up, and as you can see, I am no Johnny-come-lately to the global warming issue. What is particularly sad about the Bush administration, is that while they eschew the anti-clean-technology rhetoric of Reagan and Gingrich -- indeed claim to be pro-clean-technology, they have gutted some of the best clean tech and energy efficiency programs. In particular, they have slashed the budget for the Energy Department's major pollution prevention effort, the Industries of the Future program (described briefly in the article), and the president has proposed zeroing it out entirely. This administration's energy and climate policy make the final sentence of this article, sadly, as true as ever: "Only a misbegotten ideology could conceive a blunder of such potentially historic proportions." Here is what we wrote:

'Mideast Oil Forever?': Part IV

The renewables revolution

After the introduction and an explanation of "The Coming Oil Crisis" and "Abandoning the Solution," the next part of "MidEast Oil Forever?" (subs. req'd) is a discussion of the "The Renewables Revolution." One of the great energy tragedies of the 1980s is that President Reagan gutted the renewable energy R&D budget (and the entire clean energy budget) -- a stunning 90% cut in key technologies -- just as America was assuming technological and marketplace leadership in core areas like wind and solar power. One of the great energy tragedies of the 1990s is that the Gingrich Congress blocked the Clinton administration's efforts to significantly ramp up renewable and clean energy funding, which could have restored U.S. leadership in technologies that even then were obviously going to be the foundation of major job-creating industries in the coming century. Here is what we wrote on renewables:

'Mideast Oil Forever?': Part III

Abandoning the solution

After the introduction and an explanation of "The Coming Oil Crisis," the next part of "MidEast Oil Forever?" (subs. req'd) begins the discussion of the technology-based solution -- and how the Congress is working to block it. Yes, long before Shellenberger & Nordhaus claim to have pioneered the positive technology message that everyone else supposedly never tried, many of us were waging a public death-match (without their help) to save those technologies -- especially since the Gingrich Congress was dead set against a regulatory approach, such as tougher fuel economy standards. Even back in 1996, we understood the promise of cellulosic ethanol and hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles -- though after years of trying, we could never get Detroit to give them any more than lip service. Back in the mid-1990s, I still had some optimism for hydrogen fuel cell cars -- but the inability to make key breakthroughs over the past 10 years, and the realities of the alternative fuels market, have since persuaded me it is a dead end, especially from the perspective of global warming. Here is what we wrote:

Farming and climate change

More evidence that industrial ag is destroying the planet

From an ecological standpoint, the fundamental problem with U.S. farm policy dating back to the ’70s is that it rewards farmers for maximizing yield at all cost. Encouraged to produce as much as possible, all the time, farmers have few incentives to conserve resources or protect water, air, or soil quality. The federal government’s dizzying array of biofuel subsidies — which have propped up crop prices and encouraged yet more production — only exacerbates the situation. I don’t think greens fully appreciate the ecological troubles associated with these policies. Peter Donovan’s recent post showed how agriculture has vast — and …

'Mideast Oil Forever?': Part II

The coming oil crisis

After the introduction, the next part of "Mideast Oil Forever?" (subs. req'd) predicted in 1996 that we would have an oil crisis in ten years, and that we would be in a weak position to respond if Congress succeeded in gutting our clean energy programs. That may seem obvious now, but oil prices were low in the mid-1990s -- in the previous three years, oil prices had averaged about $16 a barrel -- and only a few oil/security analysts (whom we cite) were raising alarms. This prediction proved to be right in the main, and I am especially proud of the final paragraph in this section, where we made what was, at the time, a fairly original geostrategic argument that has been proven all-too-true. Here is what we wrote:

The blame game

Who is at fault for the fires in SoCal?

After burning nearly half a million acres, the devastating wildfires of this past week in southern California have been put down. Controversy raged with the flames; now that the air is beginning to clear, it's time to comb through the wreckage for some insight worth remembering. And there's a lot to examine, as experts of all types came forward with reactions -- some to lead, some to offer insight, and some to smear. The San Francisco Chronicle had uncharacteristically kind words for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bill Whalen pointed out that: Throughout the week, he stayed optimistic, talked action and results, and resisted the media's bait to blame someone -- anyone -- for California's misfortunes. It's exactly what you look for in a leader. The governor won accolades, and the firefighters, working brutally hard while in danger, battling day and night against sixteen fires, fueled at the start by 100-degree temperatures and gale-force winds. Watching the fires in southern California burn through the night. (Photo: San Diego Fire photo pool, via flickr)

Memo to the Air Force

Stop misleading the public on liquid coal

TO: William Anderson, assistant Air Force secretary FROM: Climate Progress, blog SUBJECT: Your nonsensical claims in a recent Reuters piece, "US Air Force Eyes Alternative Fuel, Slashing CO2." EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Liquid coal cannot be part of a plan to "zero out" the Air Force's carbon output -- contrary to your repeated claims. BACKGROUND: The following press release masquerading as a genuine news story appeared this week: The world's most powerful air force is seeking to wean itself from foreign oil and nearly zero out its carbon dioxide output as part of a sweeping alternative energy drive, a senior Pentagon official said on Friday. Well, that certainly would be big news, if it were actually true. The press release story continues:

Whether Daylight Savings Time saves energy or not, don’t forget to turn your clocks back

Most American clocks will fall back at 2 a.m. on Sunday — a week later than last year, thanks to legislation that passed through Congress in 2005. The bill’s sponsors argued that moving the time that the time moves would save energy, a claim that is shabbily supported statistically. Especially since everybody spends that extra hour of daylight with all the lights on, running all electronics and appliances on high. Or is that just us?

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